And then, strangely, later in the article you read this:
Boston teachers make an average of $71,830, higher than the pay in eight surrounding cities and towns, according to the report.
Now waiiiiit just a dad-burned second. Didn't they say that a “representative” teacher would go from $50k to $72k over the four years of the last contract? But the average is $71K. One might think the average was “representative”. Or maybe we should know the mode, or median. I don't know much — and I think I know less now.
And so what if Boston teachers make more than the surrounding communities? Don't they do tougher work in an urban system? Don't we want teachers to take on those challenges? etc.
Now, get into the report, and TBF chief Paul Grogan says nicey-nice things like this:
At the core of any lasting school reform are teachers. They are the ones who are doing the work, and they need a greater role in decision making at the school level. Incentives must be available to encourage high-performing teachers who have shown demonstrable results assume the most challenging posts and take additional responsibility. Their compensation reflect the professional nature of teachers, yet and the current contract only
rewards time in the system and the number of graduate credits accumulated.
Isn't this the most wonderful case of begging the question ever? Like, what exactly are “demonstrable results?” And does paying for [allegedly] “demonstrable results” actually work?
One has to wonder about the journalistic savvy of Globe reporter Beth Daley, who pretty much works as stenographer for TBF's findings, then getting the necessary he-said-she-said pushback from Boston Teachers Union's Richard Stutman.
This is not critical thinking. And it's not good journalism — the kind that genuinely helps one understand an issue better. To wit:
The report highlights the 5 to 6 percent raises new teachers receive each year for the first nine years they teach — in addition to negotiated annual wage increases. After nine years, teachers stop receiving annual increases, but receive “career award’’ raises from $1,250 to $5,050 every five years. Teachers also received a 14 percent wage increase over the life of the last four-year contract.
To any journalist who may be reading this, I beg you: Please, please, please, annualize the percentage increase of statistics like this. Because you read “OMG 14% increase over four years — that's a lot!!” until you do a little math on your cell phone calculator and realize that comes out to an annual increase of ~3.4%. Not exactly skyrocketing — particularly when you think that the old contract was signed in the “old normal” year of 2005 — you know, when we had a nice real estate bubble going on around here.
And furthermore, is that 3.4% annual raise in addition to the 5-6% that new teachers get? Or is it just what all the other teachers get? Eh?
So here's the problem: this morning on WBUR, Stutman pointed to a Vanderbilt study that there's no proof that incentivizing teachers with merit pay leads to better student outcomes. Oops.
You know what else I don't believe?
- That years-of-experience and educational attainment are a good way to determine pay. They're not — TBF is right enough to point that out.
- That we should pay for success by “teams”, “groups”, “posses”, or “gaggles” of teachers; nor by school. Or perhaps, at least it shouldn't be limited to that.
- That test scores are an adequate way to quantify teacher quality.
- That 90% of school administrators are actually qualified to sit in a class and tell whether a teacher is doing a good job or not, especially given such an utterly contrived situation. In my school experience, it was often the best teachers who got along worst with the administration.
- That we have any decent, well-researched, replicable idea of how to actually structure merit pay.
- That TBF's report will do anything to further that debate, since it scarcely addresses that issue.
“We believe there is an important lesson here: teachers are more likely to cooperate with a performance pay plan if its purpose is to determine whether the policy is a sound idea, than if plans being forced on them in the absence of such evidence and in the face of their skepticism and misgivings,” Springer said.
Absence of evidence, hmmm.
PS: I would draw your attention to the extra pay that teachers can get for coaching and advising, last page of the TBF report.
- $10,834 for football head coach;
- $5,415 for intramural assistant softball coach;
- comparable amounts for other sports coaches;
- $1,390 for Drama Club advisor (who presumably directs the plays?? Am I wrong?)
- $1,390 for academic debate coach.
You have got to be kidding me. Now that's a story. Hello misplaced priorities.